Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Book Clubs for Writers

Writers should be copious readers.

Twenty-five years ago as I working to create my first serious writing for publication, Steinbeck became my model and my inspiration. Immersing myself into his rhythm, working through a theme, establishing a sense of place, transporting myself into another world. Focus and accuracy got me into the car to begin serious research. The Minnesota Historical Society archives located at that time on Mississippi Street in St. Paul was my first stop. There a mystery began to reveal itself. I discovered a hand written letter filed away in the Pond papers. (The Ponds were early missionaries who translated and recorded the Native Dakota Indian language.) The author was a teenage girl. Quoting her, "...we studied small particles in the morning and large particles in the afternoon..." My imagination went wild dreaming of the setting for her school, who was her teacher, was she sitting in a tepee, what did she wear, how about the weather, did she have any friends? Phone calls followed. Eventually I packed up my teenage daughter. With the neighbor lady and her daughter along, we took a driving trip following maps gleaned from historical society documents. Locating a ruined home site along the Minnesota River that could have housed the prairie school, I photographed my daughter standing on the continental divide. At her feet was a deep rut, the only reminder of the once bustling Red River Cart trail over which the family of the 1820's may have traveled; gradually a story revealed itself to me.

It is fascinating to thoughtfully delve into an author's motivation and character development, especially when in the company of a group of trusted authors. Currently I'm reading Olive Kitteridge a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. My book club of non-writers saw Olive as "not a nice person". I see her as a complex character; an aging women so common in our world today where over 60% live in physical and emotional poverty. Who could have been Elizabeth Strout's model?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pieceful Hearts Quilting Club

The Pieceful Hearts Quilters, a group independent of any national quilting guild, invited Mary and me to present our Power Point program this week in Monticello, MN. "Celebrating Ties that Bind Pieceful Hearts in Friendship" was embraced by our exceptional audience. One-by-one these nodding women laughed and shed tears as we told our friendship stories from the 1950's.

Like these women who quilt, we chose to be independent with Amazing Attributes of Aging. Self-publishing rather than relying on traditional vanity press, micropublishing or print-on-demand programs has been very satisfying. There is a validation to be gained by beginning, following through independently and in reaping the rewards with total control over a project conceived dearly to one's heart.

Our hostess, a Blue Garter Gang member from Mankato, has found soul mates in the strong friendship formed by the Mid-Minnesota quilt enthusiasts. As with the 2,244 quilting members state wide, these women actively donate their time in charitable projects. They labor over beautiful quilts of valor for wounded service people, stitch lap quilts for hospital patients and baby blankets for the needy. Their annual quilt show and raffles support local charities.

Women supporting Women, all within a sisterhood of love, laughter and life sustaining compassion abounds.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Minnesota State University, Mankato TODAY Spring 2010

Today is a celebration for the AAA's. Our own Mary Hesla Huntley Professor Emerita is featured in, believe it or not her first centerfold! Mary's chapter "Laughing All The Way" is totally reprinted and beautifully illustrated on pages 16 and 17 of our college alumni magazine, TODAY. Aging is truly amazing as I look back at the history of the Blue Garter Gals. Eight of us started college at Mankato State College the fall of 1958, Georgia Koberoski, Jane Williams, Sandi Donaldson, Marlys Case, Carolyn Meyer, Peggy Vihstadt, Judy Piles, Mary Hesla and Judy Strand. Four years later most of us had graduated, were at work on our first jobs and many of us had wedding bands and new names as well! A couple of us even had given birth to our first child. Now we are grandmothers, many of us have retired from our professional employment and have packed away our diplomas. This year as we celebrate our 70th birthdays, we are off following our latent passions. The college has grown up too, multiplied seven times in enrollment; it has changed names at least twice since our graduations. Our hearts are warmed by the university's published list of professed values: Intregity, Diversity, Access, Responsibility and Excellence.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Marketing Our Way on to Amazon

Amazing Attributes of Aging; Silly and Sacred Stories of Blue Garter Friends has been on the market for a year. We are continually alert to new opportunities for marketing. Creativity and connections seem to be the passwords to more exposure for us. Taking on the challenge to be recognized by the manager of Garrison Keillor's Common Good Book Store last fall, we even tried limerick writing:

There is a Common good store
That is selling good books galore,
Please take a look
At this very fine book.
We'll be happy to bring you s'more!

It worked! Over time we have become comfortable presenting the story of our book to senior citizen's, church, and womens' service clubs all coinciding with book signings. Next we were approached by an alumni association which offered to print an excerpt from our book in their publication which is due to be mailed out shortly to 90,000 readers. This week our book moved on to Amazon where it is listed with a 5 Star rating! Perhaps Oprah will be next.